Movie Review: Lord of War: A Condemnation Of The International Arms Trade
Lord Of War: Rated B. Director Andrew Niccol. This is the allegedly true story of a Russian immigrant, Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), who becomes an international arms trader. Jared Leto plays Yuri’s younger brother. Bridget Moynihan is Yuri’s trophy wife. Ethan Hawke plays Yuri’s Interpol nemesis. Eamonn Walker makes a strong appearance in the role of an African dictator. Yuri narrates in voice over much of his story of how he left work at his family’s delicatessen and turned to arms trading to improve his lot in life and the consequences of being successful in that profession. The term Lord of War is pigeon English for warlord.
As the story evolves we learn that Yuri is a master of duplicity with his ability to learn languages, forge documents and bribe government officials. The film shows in graphic detail the consequences of those arms sales especially to warring factions in African nations. There are many scenes with child soldiers with Kalishnikovs, the soldier’s weapon of choice worldwide or three year olds whose arms have been cut off to make a point. In one scene two little black children ask a coked out Yuri if an amputated arm will grow back. There is much blood shed in the film so it may not be for the squeamish. Through it all we see that Yuri cannot turn down a profitable arms deal even after his parents disown him and rebel soldiers kill his brother when he tries to destroy two truckloads of arms to be used in the massacre of a refugee camp full of women and young children. Even his wife leaves him with their son because he won’t give up the arms trade. In the end he even participates in the execution of a competitor.
Yuri condemns the trade but he apologizes for his acts with the explanation that if not him then some one else. The movie makes the point that the biggest arms traders are the U.S, China, France, Russia and Great Briton all permanent members of the U.N. Security Counsel. Often he acts as a middle man or cut out for the major powers. In the end Interpol cannot arrest him because he is a convenient intermediary for these powers.
This film in many ways glamorizes the arms traders’ life surrounding him with beautiful women, wealth and close calls that he always manages to escape. There is no happy ending to this picture as the amoral Yuri loses those things that make life worthwhile like family. In the end he is alone in the world driven by greed. A more realistic ending would be if he was executed by some rebel leader or imprisoned for life by Interpol or perhaps in some third world country. While this was an interesting film on the arms trade the character of Yuri Orlov has little depth nor does he change much during the picture. He is a disillusioned amoral youth in the beginning and a disillusioned amoral arms trader in the end. No one else surfaced as an identifiable person struggling to achieve a meaningful goal in the world. Even Ethan Hawke’s character came off as an impotent law officer trying to enforce the law in an indifferent world where the major powers find it expedient to sell arms to warring countries. This film lacks a powerful central character to indentify with while it seeks to condemn the arm trade. However it is a film worth seeing.